Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview I
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 26, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-01-0016

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TI: Was he able to describe the ghettos and the concentrations camps?

HM: Yes, he had a very good perspective of this, and this is the reason why they got out of there in that fashion. They were quite wealthy, the family was quite wealthy, that was the key to the... the wealth and the ability to sacrifice their wealth to get out of the country, was their means of escape. He has this very interesting presentation and I was taken aback at the whole process. I read about the war in Europe and all this kind of stuff and making maps about how the Germans were progressing through Poland before that time period. And I thought Gee, this is a guy who really got involved in this thing. I guess most of the other students didn't think too much about it. It hit me because first of all, he was sitting next to me, he was a guy I knew, I didn't know he was going through all this difficulty. It put a little bit of empathy into my processes so he and I became a little bit better friends and I understood him a little bit better. As a result of that, there were certain things that were going on that, when he made this paper presentation, it was, I think, October of 1941, and this was before the war started. But you know, the war clouds were getting darker. And this thing about the last boat to Japan, it was in the newspaper, it was about that same point of time. And he was kind of concerned about whether or not there was going to be war with the United States with Europe and also in Asia. But he felt very comfortable being in the United States. But come the Pearl Harbor Day and the day after when we went to school, I guess he, he told me that there's going to be all kinds of things gonna happen.

TI: And that was based on his experiences in Europe...

HM: Yeah but I think he had a feeling that there's going to be something that happens to other people that happened to us, this kind of thinking. He was very serious that day. Well, of course that was a bad day for all of us but to have him think that way, I thought Gee, this is kind of a strange situation. Well. Because the war did start and I didn't go to Nihon gakkou and I had some other project I had to finish up, he had hinted that he wanted some of the things that I was doing in the woodshop.

I was working at that time on a meat tenderizer. I was making it out of one of these curly maple heads, and they're really hard to work with and it's a very hard wood. You make these striations in the darn thing and make a honeycomb texture of it and you pound meat on it. I realized after I started making this dumb thing, I was making that, and a mallet and then I had this sailboat that Mr. Oates wanted me to get into a project with, it was a veneer sailboat. And then I was still working on my cocktail table and this was one I designed myself. [Chuckles] I had been working on that thing for quite a lot time.

But he knew I was working on all these things and he asked me one day, "What are you going to do with that mallet and meat tenderizer?" I said, "I don't know." I says, "Oh, my dad doesn't want the mallet and my mother doesn't want the meat tenderizer," so I says, "I don't know." He kind of hinted around that he'd like to have them, so I said okay. Once the war started we didn't go to Nihon gakkou I decided I would get some time in the woodshop because they had after hours woodshop activity for the hobby clubs and different people like that. I said if you will help me and if you want 'em, it's yours if you pay for the materials, so we agreed to that. It was pretty well formed out anyway, it had to be hand sanded and all this hand stuff to be done, so I gave him the job of doing this. Sanding stuff is pretty easy to do so he did a fairly decent job on those things. Anyway he provided those things to his parents for their Christmas presents, they were enthralled. They were happy as a lark, I guess, 'cause here was this kid that had very poor manual capabilities present them with two nice, curly maple meat tenderizer and mallet. I mean, they were pretty presentable, to say the least. To make them out of curly maple is kind of a hard task, you don't see those too often. Anyway, that even made our friendship even stronger.

TI: And while you were doing this, and your friendship was getting stronger and stronger, did he continue to talk about his experiences in Europe, and his impending fear of what was going on?

HM: Some of these escapes and what it took to get the escape system set up and all this kind of stuff and they had a network of people. They had these different family friends that got 'em into England and from England they went to New York, and from New York they were involved with this group and they thought they should be sent to Seattle, and consequently ending up in Seattle. He was telling me about how these arrangements were made and all this kind of stuff.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.